Last week Ezra and I were in the good old US of A! We had to go there for some document stuff and had a grand time! It was the first time either of us had been back since we moved to Ukraine 17 months ago. I was nervous to go, wondering if I would feel out of place, or too “changed”, but all my worries were for not. It was a special time and our love tanks were absolutely filled to overflowing.
*I was horrible about taking pictures. My bad.*
I felt a lot of feelings throughout the trip. Some were expected, others were not. At church on the first Sunday I was so happy to be there I could have cried- and maybe did, just a little. There were so many mixed emotions coming and going that my insides felt like a huge tangled up knot. Then a wise and wonderful friend came to me and wisely advised me to stop telling myself what to feel and what not to feel.
“If you keep telling yourself what you should and shouldn’t feel you’ll miss out on all that God has for you this trip.”
Truth. I decided in that moment to just let myself feel what I felt and to let go of the reigns just a bit. I’m a control freak and I avoid vulnerability, but letting go of that control made for a much cooler trip.
Curious things we noticed while in America:
-The streets are HUGE. Wowzers. The lanes are so ginormously wide!!! It felt like every street was a freeway.
-Driving is amazing. I forgot how freeing it is to get behind the wheel and go wherever you want to go.
-The sidewalks are empty. Ha! On our first full day Ez and I walked to the DMV because I needed a replacement drivers license (my wallet was stolen last summer). After I got my license we walked to my friend’s house who was generously loaning us a car. As we walked along in the beautiful sunshine Ez said “Where are all the people?” Haha. Seriously though, walking along a sidewalk totally alone in Ukraine is a very rare thing.
-The DMV is more efficient than I ever realized. Don’t agree? Just try to get a document replaced in Ukraine and you might change your tune. 🙂
-Everyone is SO FRIENDLY and SO SMILEY! Woah Nelly. It felt like every barista and every gas attendant and every cashier was my new BFF! Sooooooo not Ukrainian. When we were going through customs in Portland, the lady who was taking the declaration sheets asked Ez “What grade are you in, buddy? Hey, do good in school, okay bud?” He barely nodded. I reminded him not to be rude and he said “But, Mom, I don’t even know her! Why was she smiling so much????” Oy. Ha. Seeing all the smiles was AMAZING. 🙂 🙂 🙂
-Everything is sparkling clean. Serious. You could eat off the floor of Target. I didn’t, but, yeah the cleanliness, wow.
-People popped out of the woodwork to tell us they pray for us every day. I had no idea. Blessed my socks off.
-So many people love our Boys fiercely. The Boys are like rockstars. I pray God speaks to their spirits and gives them even a glimpse of how deeply they are loved by multitudes of people. Thankful.
I think the biggest thing I felt on the trip to America was a feeling like I was letting all my breath out. It felt like I’d been holding my breath for the past year and a half- without even knowing it, and I finally just exhaled. You see, in America I undestand EVERYTHING. I understand every conversation, fully. I understand every sign, completely. I understand every bit of culture. I understand the body language. I understand cultural jokes. I understand family norms and social norms. I understand traffic laws. I understand what is expected of me in just about every single situation. In the whole two weeks I was there I never had one bit of tension inside like “Uh oh, what am I supposed to do here….?”
Not so in Ukraine. I think when people think of living in a different country they mostly just think of the spoken language issues- like vocabulary. I know that’s all I thought of! And yes, of course that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE learning curve and a HUGE HUGE HUGE obstacle. But there is even so much more that has to be learned than just how to say words. You have to learn the systems of how things work.
How do you buy food at a store? How do you buy food at a market? How do you do banking? How does the transportation work? How do I behave when I enter this public building? What do I do when I meet a new person? What is expected of me? How do I read that sign? And if I can’t read it, who do I ask for help? How do I send and receive mail? How will this social gathering go, and what will be expected of me? What if they ask me something and I don’t understand?
Sure, you can ask questions, but often you don’t even know what questions need to be asked. There is so much that is unspoken in culture. I can’t even tell you how much that affects daily life. Culture is everything. People don’t explain certain things to foreigners because it is such a cultural norm that everyone conforms without a second thought! Everyone except us. 🙂 We don’t even know what we don’t know. Sure we know more than we used to, but I’m still terrified of the post office. So yeah, we’ve got a ways to go.
I realized that I have become so used to feeling unsure (about what to do, what to say, how to act), that the insecure-pit-in-the-stomach feeling I get when I go most places in Ukraine has become normal to me. Oh guys, I feel dumb so often. Hahaha.
BUT, in America I remembered that although I often feel dumb and unsure and not confident, that is not who I am. I am bold. I am strong. Christ in me is bold. Christ in me is strong. He made me brave. I’m actually a fairly smart person! 🙂 I can’t even tell you how that felt- to be able to turn off the insecurities and just BE ME. I saw it changing Ezra too.
We both came back to Ukraine reminded of who Christ is in us. We came back braver and stronger. We needed that.
So yeah, it was awesome. Part of me didn’t want to leave, but another part of me couldn’t wait to get back. I have a feeling that is a tension we’ll live with as long as Ukraine is our home.
We have people who love us on both sides of the world. We have home on both sides of the world. I can love both places and long for both places. I’ll just go ahead and stop telling myself what I should feel. 🙂